Birds and Mammals of Prince Leopold Island, Nunavut, 1975–2012


  • Anthony J. Gaston



birds, mammals, High Arctic, climate change, migration


Prince Leopold Island is the most important marine bird colony in the Canadian High Arctic. An Environment Canada research camp on the island was occupied for varying periods (mean 37 days) during 18 summers from 1975 to 2012. Research concentrated on the biology of the marine bird colonies, but incidental notes were kept on other sightings of birds and mammals. Forty-seven species of birds, of which 12 bred, six species of terrestrial mammals, four seals, and three whales were recorded on or from the island. Sightings of Ivory Gull and Brant decreased over the period considered, while sightings of Peregrine Falcons and breeding records of Baird’s Sandpipers increased. Collared lemmings invaded the island in 2009, and extensive evidence of their presence was found by 2012. Arctic fox presence has become more frequent. Some or all of these changes may be related to recent climate warming and increased precipitation in the area. Eleven species of small passerines that normally do not breed north of the tree line were recorded, most often in June, suggesting that their appearance was due to migration overshoot. The regular appearance of southern passerines suggests that colonization of the Arctic Archipelago by sub-Arctic species may occur rapidly if climate and vegetation become more suitable.